Anil Ambani might not be penniless, the Pandora Papers show

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The Pandora Papers investigation, published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) this week, has revealed the names of 300 Indians who are believed to have stashed away billions in offshore accounts.

One of the names on the list is former billionaire Anil Ambani, once the sixth richest man in the world, who only last year was pleading poverty during a dispute with Chinese creditors in a UK court.

On Monday (Oct. 4), the ICIJ reported that Anil Ambani allegedly has links with offshore firms that have borrowed or invested around $1.3 billion. Ambani, the chairman of the Reliance Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, told a UK court just a year ago that his net worth had deteriorated from 50,000 crore rupees ($7 billion) in March 2012 to nothing in December 2019. “The current value of my shareholdings is down to approximately $82.4 million and my net worth is zero after taking into account my liabilities,” he told the court in 2020.

Ambani’s elder brother, Mukesh Ambani, the chairman of India‘s largest private firm, is ranked as Asia’s richest man.

Anil Ambani’s declaration was made as part of a dispute with creditors, led by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, after the dissolution of his telecom company Reliance Communications in 2019. India’s largest lender, the State Bank of India, was also pursuing domestic proceedings against him but had to stop after a high court order in 2020.

During the proceedings, Ambani also denied having any asset or beneficial interest in any entity globally. The Pandora Papers revelation has now thrown his claims into question.

Pandora Papers name Anil Ambani

Anil Ambani and his representatives are believed to own, or are linked with at least 18 offshore firms in Jersey, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), and Cyprus, according to records investigated by the Indian Express together with ICIJ.

In Jersey—a well-known tax haven close to, but not governed, by the UK—Anil Ambani appears to have a link with eight firms. Two of the firms are owned by a representative of Anil Ambani, Anup Dalal. Dalal also owned a firm in BVI that was reportedly being used for investment management. Meanwhile, in BVI and Cyprus, there are seven and three firms respectively with Anil’s involvement, according to the Indian Express.

The newspaper also reported service providers who were managing these firms putting on record that seven of them received loans from banks guaranteed either by Reliance Group or Anil Ambani, in order to make investments. “For those investments that have been realized, the monies were then, in turn, loaned out by the companies to other companies,” it said.

What did Anil Ambani say?

While Anil Ambani’s ADA Group did not comment on Quartz’s query, his lawyer shared a statement with the Indian Express.

“Our client is a tax resident of India,” the statement read. “All required considerations were taken into account when making disclosures before the London court. The Reliance Group conducts business globally and for legitimate business and regulatory requirements, companies are incorporated in different jurisdictions.”